Navy Women's Sevens - fourth in Thailand

Published on Department of Defence (author)

Location(s): Bangkok, Thailand

Topic(s): Rugby Union

Navy women’s rugby team at the Bangkok International Rugby Sevens in early November. (photo: Unknown)
Navy women’s rugby team at the Bangkok International Rugby Sevens in early November.

A trip to Thailand to play in the esteemed Bangkok International Rugby Sevens in early November was the Navy women's rugby team's first overseas tour in more than a decade.

And, despite the lack of overseas experience, it still finished a credible fourth.

While still jetlagged from the trip, the women played a warm-up match against the Thailand Air Force women's team, which fielded a number of national players and is one of the tournament’s most consistent and impressive teams.

The game was a challenge for the Navy team, which mostly plays 15s rugby and so had to quickly adjust to the speed of the sevens format, along with the intensity of the Thailand heat.

Although going down 33-12, Navy used the game as valuable preparation for the tournament.

In its 21st year, the tournament attracted 12 women's teams from the Asia region. It was played over two days, during which the Navy team – initially regarded as almost a social entrant – established itself as a force to be reckoned with.

It was first in its pool at the end of the first day, having beating Bangkok University 21-0, Cambodia Kampuchea Balopp 39-5, and Singapore HBD 40-0.

On the final day, Navy defeated Singapore Bedok Kings Skyllas, 26-5, in its qualifying match, earning the right to compete in the semi-final against the Thailand Air Force.

Navy fought hard against the Thais but struggled to combat a fast and well-drilled outfit, bowing out 24-0.

The team then discovered its results had secured it the chance to challenge for the Bowl Final against Singapore Stellar.

With only 10 minutes' notice, exhausted from the previous game and under orders from team captain and veteran player Petty Officer Communication and Information Systems Nicole Palmer to "leave nothing in the tank", Navy played a strong game only to be narrowly beaten, 19-12.

Head coach Lieutenant Commander Amanda Folkes said she was proud of the team's achievements, especially considering this was its first overseas experience in many years.

"We are disappointed that we didn't get to bring home the silverware but this is a huge stepping stone, where we were able to showcase and demonstrate that the Navy are competitors," she said.

After the final game, the Navy players donated their boots and spare kit to Kampuchea Balopp (which means "embrace the ball" in Khmer), a Cambodian non-profit organisation that helps disadvantaged children to develop themselves through sport.

Navy Women's Advocate and team manager Lieutenant Commander Rose Apikotoa was upbeat.

"The ability to travel to Bangkok and compete has been through the culmination of years of growth and progression for Australian Defence Force Women's Rugby," she said.

"It has been amazing to receive Facebook messages of support and positive feedback from shocked competitors in response to how well Navy competed in this competition.

"Despite the disappointment, they're all proud to be wearing the Australian White Ensign on their chests, and they've certainly made Australia proud."

She said the Navy women were now looking forward to applying the skills and experience gained during the event to the Australian Services Rugby Championships to be contested at Ballymore, Brisbane in May next year.